Sunday, November 20, 2011

Make Learning Social - Thanks to the Social Networks!

“If you can’t beat them, join them,” is the approach educators are beginning to take in regards to social media usage in the classroom.

Teachers are still divided on the subject of allowing student access to Facebook and Twitter during school hours, and a recent survey of 2,000 teachers proved that with the results split down the middle. The teachers that don’t agree with social media usage see it as “harmful to the learning experience.” But social media in itself is not a threat to education. It all depends on how the user utilizes it. Similarly, gamers can use the internet to play games online all day while students can use the web to pursue an online master degree.

Teachers in favor of the social media classroom experience understand that Twitter and Facebook offer:

Familiarity: A large majority of students are active on social media and understand how to use it. They feel confident when on these networks and it will translate into doing school work through the site.

Excitement: Before Facebook and Twitter were accepted into the classroom students would sneak and use them during class time through their smart phones and other devices. Now that they are given access to use them in class, students will be excited and not abuse the opportunity.

Voice: Shy students are left out of class discussions and overlooked because they don’t have the confidence to speak up. They may have valid questions to ask or answers to contribute but they lack the self-esteem to speak up. Twitter and Facebook give these students an avenue to voice their opinions. Other students and people on social media can see it and comment. The positive feedback these introverted students receive will boost their confidence and encourage them to speak up.

The student’s access to Facebook and Twitter in the classroom would be predicated on the teacher implementing it into the lesson plan. One teacher had students watch a documentary on World War I and pay close attention. During the film they were required to Tweet three facts using the hash tag #WWI, so Twitter users worldwide would be able to see them.

The one issue with using social media in the classroom is the lack of resources in some schools. Certain teachers have used the BYOT, bring your own technology, method but every student doesn’t have access to a smart phone, iPad or laptop. Classrooms equipped with computers can make up for these students, but the classrooms without will need each student to supply their own equipment.

The best feature about incorporating social media into education is the fact that educators are willing to meet students where they are. Young people have a strong presence on social media but a large number of them are not using it for educational purposes. After completing class assignments through Twitter and Facebook and getting positive feedback and into debates, these same students may be more inclined to use their accounts to discuss what they learned at school.

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